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Using the iPhone As a Pointing Device For the Real World 111

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the because-you-can dept.
Zrop writes "With a combination of GPS, Wi-FI-positioning, compass, and accelerometers, the iPhone is turbocharged for location-based services. Combine this with the new 3.0 iPhone OS and interesting things are certainly going to happen. Steve Jobs said that the iPhone will change the world when he presented it back in 2007, and that is exactly what it will do." The bulk of the article is about using the phone as a super real world pointer, which could be really cool if it could be accurate enough to be useful, although not particularly ergonomic. (Are you pointing the screen at something? The camera? The headphone jack?)
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Using the iPhone As a Pointing Device For the Real World

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  • by Q-Hack! (37846) * on Monday June 08, 2009 @11:27AM (#28251521)

    Like all tools, you need to use it for what its calibration is capible of. For instance, like the i-Phone, my Blackberry has a bubble level app. I would never consider using it as a level in bridge construction, but for haning a picture it works just fine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What you're referring to is really the age old Physics 101 discussion about accuracy and precision. I used my iPhone several times in the last couple of days to locate golf courses I was supposed to play at, and it was extremely accurate. It will remain accurate when looking for things much smaller than a golf course as well I'm sure, but the precision isn't sufficient to work on a much smaller scale.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LWATCDR (28044)

        My GPS and Phone are accurate to a house. GPS can get you down to a meter or less so now the problem is with the maps.
        I would trust a GPS to get me to within a meter of a know reference point.

        Of course I wonder if there is any reason except for cost that they couldn't add a high resolution time source to each cell tower and use them for a land based GPS system. It should work in buildings and should be more accurate than a GPS since the transmitters would be fixed and you wouldn't have to deal with the iono

        • by MikeURL (890801)
          This is my experience as well. The maps often have errors but the GPS devices will get you to within a few feet of the coordinates. My apt building shows up on maps about 400ft SW of where it actually is. However, if I give people the GPS coordinates they can literally find my bedroom. I tend to do the same thing with other landmarks (the Nuvi 360 makes this really easy).

          I sync regularly with my PC to make sure I never lose my database. Maybe someday I can compete with NAVTEQ. But seriously I just
    • Like all tools, you need to use it for what its calibration is capible [sic] of

      You could get quite accurate for big landmarks, which would be useful for navigation in cities like New York, Chicago, and Houston. Implement an app like the camera app with realtime video and add crosshairs. The pointing app would use the camera, GPS, the accelerometers, and the compass. You'd know about where you are, and which direction the camera is pointed. You could then send a *highly* compressed photo to an app at Google, which would calculate the outlines of the big landmarks in the area for th

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nerdfest (867930)
      I would think something like the G1 would make a far better pointing device than an iPhone, as it has a compass, and can actually tell what direction it's pointing in.
      • I went geocaching this weekend for the first time with my G1 using GeoBeagle. I also have a Garmin 60csx which is a very nice handheld GPS. The G1's application was slower to update the distance to cache than the Garmin and would jump more than I was used to. The G1 would also lose the satellites when the Garmin wouldn't. But the G1 was very accurate, often showing 2 meters to the cache when we had found it.
        • by Sporkinum (655143)

          The accuracy inherent in the signals can vary. I drive a route to work with a hill on it. The hill's GPS reported height varies by as much as 10 meters on occasion, though is usually the same within a meter or two.

      • by Nerdfest (867930)
        Replying to myself (after RTFA), Apple is actually adding the compass hardware to the new iPhones.
    • calibration uncertainty of the artefact itself. For instance, in calibration method has several advantages, thanks Angelina Jacob parking sensor [backup-sensor.com]
    • My Newton could be capable of more, but due to Apple's policies, it's primarily only calibrated for use as a paperweight. They seem to have a whole team of people at Apple involved in the paperweight design effort.

  • by jayhawk88 (160512) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Monday June 08, 2009 @11:30AM (#28251557)

    Look at where you're going. With your iEyes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 08, 2009 @11:35AM (#28251617)

    I already use iphones as pointing devices:
    when I see someone with an iphone, I know to point at them and laugh

  • Cool stuff... (Score:5, Informative)

    by pushing-robot (1037830) on Monday June 08, 2009 @11:37AM (#28251637)

    ...but this isn't exactly new, even [technologyreview.com] on [intomobile.com] phones. [intomobile.com]

  • Laser range finder, preferably in the visible spectrum. Not that I would buy it, I'm not a fan of Apple.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Old97 (1341297)
      Great idea, an iPhone mounted on a shark with a friggin' laser beam attached! Bwahahahahaha!
    • by SkyDude (919251)

      Laser range finder, preferably in the visible spectrum. Not that I would buy it, I'm not a fan of Apple.

      Couple it with an "attachment' manufactured by Smith & Wesson. I'd buy it because then the iPhone would definitely be useful.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Timmmm (636430)

      The actual missing component: gyros. We already know from the Wii that it doesn't accelerometers are pretty useless on their own for all but the most basic tasks.

      This video illustrates the difference they make:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s19W-MG-whE [youtube.com]

      It would be very cool to have a device that integrated GPS, a digital compass, accelerometers and gyros. That would give you all the low and high frequency information you need to accurately locate its position and orientation in real time.

  • Traditional revenue models for pushing consumers to retail are beginning to show their age esp. in their transition to mobile, but app developers are already exploring location-based delivery of coupons and promotions that can be scanned at point of sale (e.g. on the iPhone: CardStar [mycardstar.com], Coupon Sherpa [couponsherpa.com]). Things are changing fast and the consumer, as usual, is poised to win.

  • by derGoldstein (1494129) on Monday June 08, 2009 @11:50AM (#28251767) Homepage

    How many of these articles are going to keep making it on /.?
    Last time the iPhone was used to make the cover art of some magazine, which was of course comparable to the moon landing.

    I know that this sounds like trolling, and by some definitions it may be, but I think that even an objective reader (someone who *isn't* sick of hearing how the iPhone cured cancer) would find this particular "article" incredibly pandering.

    If I were *looking* for hype and gimmicks, there's always digg.

    • by darthnoodles (831210) on Monday June 08, 2009 @12:12PM (#28252005)
      In related news, for the first time ever an iPhone was used in a colonoscopy to detect cancer. Using the sleek design to its advantage the device was able to "get in there" and take the photos required. The doctors said it was a success...the patient said "Ow!"
    • ...about device news, you're trolling. You don't like it because it's Apple, and it's expensive. You're not entirely familiar with the OS it runs, and some douchebag in Starbucks brags about how productive and virus-free he is because he bought "the BMW of computers".

      Not all of us Mac users are like that, and the iPhone isn't a Mac at all. It is very well designed; so well so in fact that it inspires people to make these kinds of "discoveries"; we realize these things are not new because we read Slashdot, w

      • by tsa (15680)

        He DOES deserve +5, Mr or Ms fanboi. The iPhone is way too much overhyped, and posting an article from 2007 now makes no sense at all. I like Apple stuff, but you can only write so much about a product before you exhaust yourself.

        • by Tokerat (150341)

          He DOES deserve +5, Mr or Ms fanboi. The Linux Kernel is way too much overhyped, and posting an article from 2007 now makes no sense at all. I like GNU stuff, but you can only write so much about a product before you exhaust yourself.

          O RLY? All tech news is equal, but some tech news is more equal than others.

      • Not all of us Mac users are like that, and the iPhone isn't a Mac at all.

        I think you've extrapolated a bit too far. Who said anything about the Mac or Mac users? And by "like that" do you mean the example you gave about the "douchebag in Starbucks"?
        We could get into a whole debate about Macs, and normally I would, but in this case I really didn't say anything but point out a clear hype-laden story that got on slashdot. It has nothing to do with Macs. It's just of poor quality and I'm surprised that articles relating to the iPhone seem to get a push simply for including the wo

        • by Tokerat (150341)

          These days, it's really hard to separate the highly-moderated trolls from the legit opinions. I guess you just get so used to taking flak from everyone about something that seems so insignificant ("Your opinion is worthless and your manhood is questionable because you like an expensive computer with a piece of fruit for a logo" is not all that uncommon) that you just react as though any criticism is trolling. Apologies, and I'll try not to let it happen again.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by Hognoxious (631665)
        just sew a button on it, you big ponce.
    • by Aceticon (140883) on Monday June 08, 2009 @12:49PM (#28252543)

      This just in:

      "Stunned users have discovered yet another feature of the iPhone - it can be used as a gravity detection device.

      iPhone owner and fan John Smith from Los Angeles CA told us of his surprise at discovering this surprising feature on his iPhone: 'It was incredible, I just opened my hand and instantly my iPhone started accelerating in the same direction as the local gravitational field - I never noticed that my iPhone could do this before' - he told us while sipping a triple-shot Cafe Mocha.

      From testimonies by other users, it seems that this feature in the iPhone shows itself whenever it is released at a distance from any surface.

      Combine this with the new 3.0 iPhone OS and interesting things are certainly going to happen. Steve Jobs said that the iPhone will change the world when he presented it back in 2007, and that is exactly what it will do."

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Not only just that, it can also be used as a telephone. The iPhone is truly amazing, it is 21 things in one:
        mp3 player
        video game console
        movie player
        tv show player
        email box
        movie trailer player
        photo album
        calculator
        movie camera
        pointing device
        cow bell
        photographic camera
        digital beer mug
        interweb browser
        digital aquarium
        paperweight
        flashlight
        vibrator
        pointing device for the real world
        directional gravity quantizer
        telephone

        wow... 21 many things in one single package. Steve Jobs said the iPhone wi
    • by Ltap (1572175)

      How many of these articles are going to keep making it on /.? Last time the iPhone was used to make the cover art of some magazine, which was of course comparable to the moon landing.

      I know that this sounds like trolling, and by some definitions it may be, but I think that even an objective reader (someone who *isn't* sick of hearing how the iPhone cured cancer) would find this particular "article" incredibly pandering.

      If I were *looking* for hype and gimmicks, there's always digg.

      I agree. They seem to be posted here all the time, and show the iPhone as having these amazing new features, features that have often already been done. I don't have a problem with it - I just think that it isn't balanced (i.e.: seeing who has already done/is working on that feature).

    • by hurfy (735314)

      oh well, i only made it to the 2nd paragraph

      "What is the right way? Unobtrusive delivery of well targeted ads."

      It WILL make a great pointing device...point the index finger of the hand holding iPhone toward point of interest and spread the other fingers open to indicate....err...oops

    • Because Apple pays a lot for advertising and building the brand name. Taking a chapter out of P&G and Disney, it's about building the brand/image and time to market--not delivering a superior product.

      .

      It is annoying these articles get on the FP of /. -- I mean the Google/Tmo G1 and some S60 phones already do what we're talking here. It's nothing new, oh except that it's 'the iPhone'.

    • The iPhone cured cancer, but causes digestive problems. Steve is recovering nicely now though, they fixed that in the new iPhone for this year.

  • If you wanted the magnetometer to work, you'd probably have to point the headphone jack at it... I doubt it would get a very good magnetic signal unless the device was more or less horizontal. YMMV near the magnetic poles, though.
    • by PPH (736903)
      Or it might incorporate a three axis magnetometer. That'll work in any orientation (although the periodic calibration procedure might be a bit involved).
  • http://lastminutelabs.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/android-app-nru-launches-in-the-usa [wordpress.com] => an Android app that uses Compass, GPS and location services to point you to bars, restaurants, hotels...

    • Which has been available (free) on Nokia mobiles for... I don't know... ever. What is forever in software years? 2 years?

       

      • by tpholland (968736)
        Yes, Nokia make some amazing stuff, like that web server I had running on my phone, what, two and a half years ago. The problem is that the department responsible for communicating the more cutting-edge of what they do is based in a secret bunker under the Finnish tundra, and have the national shyness in spades.
      • by ^_^x (178540)

        I remember seeing a Nokia demo where you could point the camera at a hotel or other attraction and get a popup with information about it - do you know if that was ever released?

        I've also long been in favour of tagging things with small Semacodes or QRCodes to help even GPS-less phones quickly scan and identify things, then maybe pull additional data from the web...

      • by dangitman (862676)
        It would only work on Nokia mobiles that have a compass... which isn't likely to be many models (if any).
  • .. as the summary incorrectly states. there are only rumors that the next iPhone may have a compass, or "magnetometer"
    • by alheim (1069926)
      replying to myself, they just announced that the new iPhone 3GS will have a compass.
  • The only part of the supergun the Army was looking into that I thought was neat was the use of onboard laser and GPS to send fire orders. If you see the target, you can lase it, know it's exact position on the grid coordinates and rounds can be incoming in seconds. That's a pointer!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by oodaloop (1229816)
      Or just learn how to read a map and call off your coordinates over the radio. It's not hard* and saves taxpayers money.

      *Disclaimer: I used to teach mapping in the Marine Corps. YMMV. If you have trouble counting or following bold straight lines on a map, this may be extremely difficult.
      • Or just learn how to read a map and call off your coordinates over the radio. It's not hard* and saves taxpayers money.

        *Disclaimer: I used to teach mapping in the Marine Corps. YMMV. If you have trouble counting or following bold straight lines on a map, this may be extremely difficult.

        Correct me if I'm wrong, but no matter how well you read the map... isn't lazing the target is more precise.

        It could mean the difference between hitting the target head-on vs striking next to it. Or hitting/entering the entrance vs striking the wall of the cave/bunker/warehouse. Plus, doesn't it also allow for the following of slow-moving targets?

        Depending on the ordinance vs the armor, it might make the difference.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by oodaloop (1229816)
          Yeah, depends on the target. If you're bombing a hilltop, lasing provides far more accuracy than needed. Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) is usually used in 6, 8, or 10 digit numbers. a 6 digit grid gives a 100 meter square on the ground, which is good enough for ground navigation and targeting of things like hilltops. An 8 digit grid gives a 10 meter square, which is good enough for most buildings. 10 digit grids give a 1 meter square, which are used for targeting extensively. You could denote n
          • by PitaBred (632671)
            What about speed, though? It's a hell of a lot faster to lase a target than it is to find it, then look it up on a map. From a distance, what do you do... estimate? Hope your maps are correct? Or would you rather have your GPS tied to a laser and a compass, and just "point and click", the target is instantly identified? A moving convoy, that's gonna be the difference between hitting them and hitting near them.
            • by oodaloop (1229816)
              I can see costs going down eventually, but current lasing systems are expensive and I don't think the costs justify the small additional capability. The lasers used to lase targets are not the same as the ones in pointers or the ones they used in Transformers. They're very powerful and need to be detected from long distance. Plus the whole package has to be durable, waterproof, rugged, etc. And for a laser with a glass tube (the only kind around AFAIK), this means a lot of expensive packaging. I'm not
              • by PitaBred (632671)
                What about shooting shells over a hill, though? Sure, call in air support, but why not bring some mortars in and target them appropriately? Oh, and it depends on the distance, but you can get commerical-grade laser rangefinders [profession...ipment.com] for $440, and they're accurate to +/- 1 yard at up to 930 yards. That's not too bad, or too expensive. Hook up some simple mems (like an iPhone) to get inclination and such, GPS and a compass for direction, and you have a very cheap targeting device. Couple thousand more at most to
                • by oodaloop (1229816)
                  A laser ranger finder is different from a laser target designator, which is what "lasing" refers to. When you "lase" a target, you are bouncing a special laser off a target so that another system (perhaps very far away) can detect the reflected light and zero in on the source (this is what they were trying to show in Transformers, but with the wrong kind of laser). A laser range finder will bounce a laser off a target back to you and tell you far away it is. Two entirely different systems. I think this
                  • by PitaBred (632671)
                    But think... why have it so the remote system has to detect the laser light? If you can get an accurate GPS position relative to the position of the person doing the targeting, you can radio that in anywhere. That's a much cheaper, lighter and easier way of "lasing" the target. Just because that's how it's done now doesn't mean that it's the best way.
                    • by oodaloop (1229816)
                      Uh, so you want a missile to lock onto the forward observer's location, and not the enemy's location? Doesn't that seem a little dangerous?
                    • by PitaBred (632671)
                      Notice the word "relative"? It pulls the GPS position of the observer, combines it with the laser's targeting (azumuth, etc.) and distance finding, and then you have the target you're going to hit. Not that fucking hard to understand.
                    • by oodaloop (1229816)
                      Between the inaccuracy of the GPS (does NOT give pin-point locations like laser target designators) and the digital compass (which typically doesn't work well near metal objects, like your rifle, radio, etc), I see a marked decline in accuracy of the system you are describing (the laser range finder is probably the most accurate part of that system, but I don't know how far off it can be). Add to that the problems that have plagued systems like this in the past, like magnetic north vice true north (was tha
  • Oh yes. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "Interesting things is certainly going to happen" indeed!

    Want to get rid of the reality distortion field and all the hype? Sorry, there's not an app for that.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Dear Editors,
    Thanks for posting this article from a "news" site.

    Actually, at second look it's just some retard's blog.

    Please do not encourage blogging as a "news" source.

    Thanks

  • What's the "point"? :)

  • Oh Dear Lord (Score:3, Insightful)

    by angryphase (766302) on Monday June 08, 2009 @12:39PM (#28252335)

    I wrote these apps for Windows Mobile, I've writtten a couple for Android, I've even written some into specialized devices using basic GPS Dongles and cellular network access for triangulation.

    Now that Apple is doing it, suddenly it's going to CHANGE THE WORLD (tm). Location-based services/applications along with advertising have been looked at before, they failed then, they will fail now. People don't want adverts on their phones, they don't want bluetooth spam or to be bombarded with "Hey, come and enjoy a Pizza half-price at Hungry Joe's" everytime they walk past a pizza restaurant.

    The article is poorly written, lacking in experience or significant research into previous implementations and sings the praises of Apple combining their award-winning expertise with this amazing new tech to change the marketplace forever.

    Pass me a bucket, mine is full already.

  • by pwfffff (1517213) on Monday June 08, 2009 @12:42PM (#28252399)

    You've got to be kidding me.

    They have a video of Wikitude on the G1 already doing all of this crap in an article HYPING THE IPHONE.

    Steve Jobs must have sold his soul to the devil to get his freakishly skilled marketing department.

  • Android Sky Map (Score:3, Informative)

    by Speare (84249) on Monday June 08, 2009 @12:43PM (#28252403) Homepage Journal

    One of the best apps I've seen that uses the combination of GPS, 3D Accelerometer and Incline-corrected Compass is the "Google Sky Map" available for download. Once started, your phone becomes a window into a 360-degree x 180-degree planetarium dome (a full sphere). Hold the phone straight ahead, and see the virtual horizon line. As you rotate, see the N E S W markers slide into view appropriately in real time. Hold the phone overhead to see the "Zenith" marker, or look through the floor for the "Nadir" marker. Everywhere else on the virtual dome, you see the major stars and constellation lines, planets and other astronomical items. Want to find Jupiter? Select that goal from a menu, and the phone will guide your hand until you're looking in the direction of the current position for Jupiter, even if it's below your feet or behind the sun.

    Oh yeah, and it's on the Android phone. For free.

    • One of the best apps I've seen that uses the combination of GPS, 3D Accelerometer and Incline-corrected Compass....

      Here here!
      That app is awesome, and free! :)
      It is really truly impressive.
      -Taylor

  • by Anonymous Coward

    iPhone. Small 'i'. Small brains must remember: small 'i'. Thank you, Mz Taco.

  • Android did it first [engadget.com] with Street View. There is nothing unique about the iPhone in this regard, every mobile computer with a camera and a network connection is a viable platform.

    And the idea itself is twenty years old. Why does fanboy drivel like this get posted?

  • by PPH (736903) on Monday June 08, 2009 @01:57PM (#28253401)

    ... at whom [slashdot.org] you point that iPhone. You could start an intergalactic war.

    Not because the aliens mistake it for a weapon, but because they prefer the Palm Pre. And you know how these platform wars get out of hand.

  • Which just reminds me of how I have wanted my Magic Wand for many years now.

    I got my PDA back in the day thinking it could come close to this. Replace my remote controls for my TV, etc (can be done, not very well). Or the garage door opener (nope). Calculator (yes). Checkbook and calendar (yes). Laser pen pointer (nope). send/accept phone numbers (sorta). Hold all my personal data, including documents and things that I am working on (sorta). Game controller. Security key for car, computer, house, e

  • The Jobs presentation back in 2007 was of course utter PR bullshit, but that is as expected. The article pointed to here was sad oh-isn't-Steve-cute wanking. The Zrop submission was the most pitiful piece of steaming manure ever, I mean 'the iPhone will change the world'... And that Taco guy is apparently also buying into the hype with his 'super real world pointer' fawning.

    I feel it's like kicking on a chromosome-impaired kid lying on the ground looking for his coke-bottle glasses to comment on slashdots

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